Biological Science Behind Decision Making

Rational brain vs Emotional brain, which one we should follow?

Decision-making is always an interesting subject to talk about. In deciding things we have to choose, we can analyze it with deep analysis and calculation, or we can do it with our feelings and intuition. If you ask which one is better then these two are equally good. If you know how to do it and when to do it.

Researchers and scientists have conducted research with our brain and trying to explain which brain part that involved in decision-making activity, they want to explain how rational thinking and emotional thinking works biologically. The goal is to read the human brain map, understanding the ability of the human brain so we can use it properly and the way it was designed to be.

The result of the study is, in making a decision, humans relied on two parts of the brain. The prefrontal cortex (the brain part that works in rational thinking) and orbitofrontal cortex (the brain part that works in emotional thinking). Each brain part has its strength and weakness. If we know that, we can take advantage of its strength and avoiding its weakness.

Prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex location in our brain (Sc:

The Emotional Brain (Orbitofrontal Cortex)

The Orbitofrontal cortex is a part of the brain that stored summaries of data that consists of knowledge we know, the information we consumed, things we heard, patterns we recognized, things we have learned. Sometimes we learned these things a long time ago until we feel we already forget them, actually we do not forget it, it is stored deep inside in our brain and we cannot access it consciously. Only the orbitofrontal cortex can access it. That’s why when something strange happens we can feel it without being able to explain what’s wrong happen.

Orbitofrontal Cortex Location (Sc: Wikipedia)

Herb Stein, the director of the days of our life (Soap Opera) has directed the show for 25 years. When he started his career and cast the actors for a role, he considers a lot of variables to decide which actor suits for a role. But after 25 years working as a soap opera director, he used his feelings to cast actors for a role, and decide which actor for a role whenever he feels that he sees something in the actor. He doesn’t need any reasons to point that actor. He just feels that he has found the right person.

Herb Stein (Sc:

Experienced people have better intuition because they have been doing it for a long time and their emotional brain has trained. That’s the reason why even though Herb Stein just use his feeling when he casts an actor, the result of the audition is satisfying. It is because he has a sharp feeling after doing the same thing for 25 years. he already understood the pattern and he can see something that others cannot see.

The emotional brain is great but it also comes with its weakness. We can’t trust too much with our emotional brain because it can be impulsive, shallow, and unwise at times. And to overcome that is to consider and weigh each emotion and use our rational thought to review our emotional brain.

The rational brain (Prefrontal Cortex)

The prefrontal cortex is part of the brain that is active when humans doing rational thinking. This is the brain we use when our feeling isn’t sharp enough to decide something. this brain can solve things that the emotional brain cant solve like choosing something that has more than 3 variables to consider, such as choosing a house to buy.

In choosing a house to buy we consider multiple things like building size, rooms number, bathroom number, the neighborhood, the distance from our workplace, the distance from public facilities, etc. we cannot use our feelings to choose them, we have to use our rational thinking.

No matter how great is the rational brain. It also comes with its weakness. This brain can easily get exhausted. It also can produce wrong assumptions.

The best decision is the decision that using both brains to choose. In making a decision, use your rational brain to think, consider the options we have, and analyze the variable. After you use your rational brain, your brain might be exhausted and your perception might be distorted. You can take a break for a while, let the analysis you made absorbed in your brain. And then let the emotional brain decide it for you.

This article is a summary from How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer

All writings are based on writer’s perspective.